Thus Always

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I absolutely love history, especially the civil war, so this is kind of a result of that. :)

Submitted: May 24, 2013

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Submitted: May 24, 2013

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Thus Always
 
Four o’clock in the morning Samuel slept.  Very well, in fact.  He would never admit it, but he rather enjoyed the absence of soldiers plotting this way and that around his farm.  Of course, those same soldiers provided the hope of keeping his farm; he didn’t mind that for the moment.  He had his medicine to fall back on.  Yes, the new quiet had brought some considerable peace to Samuel’s farm. 
 
It soon might be another man’s farm, though.  Just a few days ago he had gotten a package from that young man who had talked about purchasing the property a time ago.  Some liquor and food inside it; strange gifts, really; made him wonder why he sent it at all.  Samuel was never one to refuse a glass of whisky, no sir. Innumerable benefits that a drink can provide a man, and being a doctor Samuel was apt to take advantage of them all.  But, if he thought he was decreasing the price of the man’s estate with mid-afternoon meal, that poor young man was evidently even younger in the terms of property dealings.
 
It was a nice kind of farm, you know.  Would’ve been wonderful at this time, reclining in chair on the front porch looking over the moonlit road to Washington.  Samuel liked that about his property.  It was a big farm, nearly a plantation, it had all the charm and grandeur of a country estate, and right down that road a few miles was a bustling capital full of people with scores of ailments to cure.  Really gave a man the best of both worlds, some would say.   But it was best right now, in the peace and quiet of the early morning.  
 
Well, around four o’clock that night circumstance decided that it could bear no more of this tranquility.  Presently down the road came the familiar noise of hooves trampling towards the house.  Gradual they approached, the two men riding at an unnatural hour at unnatural speed.  From the direction of the city they came, one would think from a night on the town if not for the ferocity with which they rode.  They nearer they drew to the sleepy farm on the side of the road, the clearer it became that these men were not leaving from someplace; they were going someplace.  That someplace, for the moment, was Samuel’s farm.
 
Four o’clock in the morning, Samuel still slept.  In a moment his eyes shot open, a pounding sound from somewhere seemingly very far away from where he was now beckoning him.  Perhaps he was imagining—no, there it was again.  Some one was at the door.  The doctor shot out of bed, while taking care to avoid disturbing Sarah, and darted down the stairs without a sound.  The doctor’s guest took no such precautions to protect the family’s slumber.  Samuel had a mind to berate the stranger for calling at such an hour, but given the circumstance he hardly expected to find anyone in a condition to scold on his doorstep
 
“How may I…“ was all he was able to say before his gaze met the faces of his guests.  
 
Two young men, one whom he met before, stared back at him with eyes that mixed dependence and expectancy. One was that same young man, the one who sent the provisions, the one who wanted the buy the property, the one who he had met by chance in the city not long ago (so he thought, he couldn’t remember exactly when.)  He remembered the conversation that they had, their shared views on politics, especially on… he hadn’t.  
 
The young man had talked of it, not in enough detail to concern Samuel but enough to make him listen all the same.  Samuel had told himself that the young man had too much to lose, too far to fall to do such a thing.  But Samuel could see it in the young man’s eyes.  He should have made the connection before, but now he realized.  He had done it, and now he needed help that he knew Samuel could provide.  The man accompanying him held him up under the arm, which coupled with the untouched bloodstains on the young man’s pant leg made clear their purpose here.  The young man’s companion stated it anyway.
 
“Good morning doctor.” he said in rushed tones lacking any aspects of greeting, “I’m sorry to disturb your rest but this man has a quite serious leg injury that requires immediate attention.”
 
The young man was more direct “It’s my leg, doc,” he mumbled.
 
The doctor stood in his doorway frozen.  He had no idea what to do.  He later realized that he had no idea what he did do.  He would tell himself most of the time that the two staggered into his living room without a word, just a cold glance from the character supporting the young man, whose name he never learned.  Whether they were allowed into his home or not, that would become a point in his own mind, if in no one else’s.  But however his memory served him on a particular day in the future, he found himself suddenly in that moment, standing before a patient he was expected to tend to tend to and forbidden to aid, the countryside having become somehow louder than it was before.
Samuel left the room to fetch his tools.  He stayed in his study, however, to fetch his better judgement.  Samuel was afraid. In his living room alone lingered enough object of terror alone to make the bravest of men hesitate to action, and Samuel did not consider himself a brave man.  He did consider himself an intelligent one however, so he took a moment to apply the part of him not currently seized by fear to this quandary.  No good this did.  The more he logically walked himself through his troubles, the more his quarantined fear crept in on the borders of his thoughts.  The trouble was that he not only feared the young man in his living room, he feared his actions, the repercussions of his actions; his very glance, the doctor feared, would associate himself with the young man’s deed.  
 
He feared that chiefly: association.  He wanted nothing to do with the events of the last twelve hours; he had heard and cared little about them, and still did as it related to most things.  But as they related to him, there was nothing more serious.  
 
“So that’s it,” he said quietly to himself, “I’ll go out there and tell ‘em straight, ‘Boys, you best git out of this house fore’ some one you don’t wanna see come ridin’ down that road.’”  He would be blunt, short with it, and show the two boys out before they had much to say.  They would ride off, into the distance the opposite way they came, and everything would be quiet once again.  He rested his tools on his desk once again and summoned his courage.
 
It never came.  It suddenly occurred to him that this pair waiting on him in the next room was versed in all things reckless and outside the law.  What was the life of a doctor to such men?  He looked down at his tools.  He realized that the young man’s companion had looked at him the same way, as something to be used.  He noted the relative ages of his tools, some of which he had owned more than a decade, others that hadn’t seen a month of use since his old ones had run their course.  So that was the nature of his role.  To be used; to be used, or discarded.  
 
He grabbed his tools and walked—no, ran—into the next room.  Before either could say a word, he began tending to the young man’s leg.  He was caught up in the noise; maybe that was the reason why he didn’t want to be spoken to, it was too loud already.  He wouldn’t realize it until later, much later, but neither of the men actually told him to do anything, as a matter of fact they didn’t even ask.  They just told him the minimal amount they could have of the trouble they were in, and the circumstance swept the poor doctor up and compelled him to do exactly what he feared doing the most because he feared not doing it even more.  I would say that was the principle emotion that followed the young man’s deed: fear.  Everyone felt it, everywhere for days to come.  Fear and confusion would plague a nation, more powerfully than anyone could have imagined; but for the moment it was confined to this room, to these people.  That fear is something you can’t see is a myth, I believe; for when Samuel finished his preparations he looked from his position near the young man’s feet into his eyes, in his eyes he saw it.
 
 
 
Hours later he sat in the same place his patient had laid earlier that night.  What had he done, what would he do?  Somebody would know; somebody would come!  He had become involved with a crime so unspeakable, so diabolical, that his mere presence in its unfolding he was certain would spell his doom.  It was a peculiar insight to the young man’s actions that the doctor had.  While his own opinion of the crime was that it was hardly distinguishable than others of its sort, operating on its perpetrator had widened his field of vision.  Whether or not he hated the thing he did was one matter; he now realized it.  It was massive in scope, so large that he could never have hoped to avoid it.  Realization is a precious thing in the face of tragedy.  When it mixed with the fear that had never subsided in the proceeding hours however, the results were unexplainable to Samuel.  
 
 He did hear the noises of the horsemen approaching again, but he didn’t expect a knock at the door for some reason or another.  Maybe it was hope.  The two riders at the door were urgent once again, pounding, making a ruckus fit to wake all inside, which they did do this time.  Slowly, Samuel made his way to the door to greet who he was sure were the last people that he wanted to see.  
 
“How may I help you?” he was able to say this time, but with a noticeable sigh.
 
Two men in dark jackets stood on Samuel porch looking intently at him.  “Good mornin’, sir.” one said.  His voice carried an excitement, which it seemed that he was trying to hide for decency’s sake.  “Sure you herd ‘bout the happenins down at the theatre short time ago.  Damn shame that was.  So uh… we’re lookin fer a feller by the name a’ Wilkes Booth.”
 
Samuel was past the point of flinching at the name of his patient.  He showed no signs of worry or care.  He realized that he was in a predicament and feared the consequences of the men making any progress on him.  He kindly said that he hadn’t heard of the man (which was a lie), but that he had heard a horseman out of hell galloping down the road at an unholy hour (which cleverly wasn’t.)  The two men, clearly not of any type of law enforcement authority, thanked him kindly for the information and galloped off likely fancying that they had the drop on the assassin.  
 
As for Samuel, he sighed and closed the door.  As he turned he heard his family rising, his wife coming down the stairs in a hurry, surely to inquire about the strange visit.  The whole house was beginning to awaken.  And the house was no louder than it was on any other day, despite the two additional people it now harbored, as they were sleeping soundly at this waking hour, as a man would want to do after a long night on the run.
 
Yes, the countryside was no longer the deafening place it had been for Samuel Mudd hours earlier; he had had enough of its noises.  Perhaps he should find a new buyer for his little farm, he thought over a very early whiskey.  Someone who wouldn’t send him packages, or ask him for favors.
 
-Miles Felix 
 
 


© Copyright 2019 Miles Felix. All rights reserved.

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